You grab a candy bar at the cash register, or unexpectedly swing into the coffee shop drive-thru. You were just going to browse at the mall until you saw that pair of shoes. You didn't really need that new tech gadget, but it was such a good deal. Everyone has made an impulse purchase. Stores and online shopping outlets are designed to encourage them, and the occasional impulsive treat isn't the worst thing in the world. Most of the time, though, impulsive spending makes us feel worse, drains our finances and can even affect our relationships.
What is impulsive spending?
It can run from occasional unplanned purchases and a desire for instant gratification to buying to fulfill deeper psychological needs and not being able to stop. It can become compulsive behavior.
How do you know when it's a problem?
Review these 7 signs:
- Your spending is causing debt to build up
- Overspending is taking away your ability to cover immediate and longer term needs
- You hide your spending from family members
- You don’t even want to know how much you are spending on "stuff"
- You shop when you are depressed, lonely or angry to make yourself feel better
- The thought of not shopping, whether at stores or online, and also not having credit cards with you, causes uneasiness or even fright
- You find yourself fighting with others regarding your spending habits
9 tips to help stop impulsive spending:
- The first step is realizing it is a problem and committing to change. Think of the positives that can result in your relationships and finances.
- Avoid the mall or online shopping sites. Find alternative low- or no-cost activities to occupy your time.
- Make a list when you are shopping and commit to following it.
- Don’t carry credit cards. Freeze them in a block of ice if necessary so you will have to take time to think about using them.
- Don’t shop when upset or depressed.
- Give yourself time limits. Whether 2 hours or 30 days, waiting to make any purchase gives you more time to rationally consider it.
- Have a talk with yourself before any purchase. Is it a want or a need? Even if it is a need, do you really love it? Hold out for the right purchase at the right price at the right time.
- Don’t shop with people who like to spend or who like to convince you to spend. You don’t need that influence when trying to keep spending under control.
- We can rationalize anything and convince ourselves something is really what we need. Deep down, we often know when we are doing that. The more we have to talk ourselves or someone else into it, the less likely it really is what we need to be buying.
If impulsive spending becomes a compulsion, and you can’t seem to stop yourself, professional help may be required to deal with it. Conquering it on your own can be very difficult.
Having specific goals and committing to them can truly help curb the spending that stops you from achieving those goals. You are in control of your life instead of the impulsive behavior controlling you.